We were planning on coming here early on new year's day and went to York instead. Turned out to be a good choice, another friend did go and said the world and his wife was there. York, nicely quiet. Whitby is always busy! Although I have to say a cold, crisp and sunny January morning, with frost on the ground and the Abbey would look lovely.
Instead we went on a really lovely summer's day. The beach and the rest of the town was packed. Oddly thought, the Abbey was quiet. You couldn't say we had it to ourselves but it was by no means busy. The drive through the North York Mores to get there was lovely (Middelsborough excepted). One of the things about Whitby is that it is in the arse-end of nowhere... Says the man who lives in Berwick!
The Castle dates from around 1200 CE and for most of its existence was owned by the Hepburn family (Part of the Douglas claan). Originally built by the de Gourlay's: a Northumbrian family, they chose the wrong side in one of the many English Scottish skirmishes and had the house taken off them by the Scottish crown, who gave it to the Hepburns, who built it from a fortified house into a castle.
One of the nice things about here is that on some evenings Sukhothai is lit up.
So, a nice simple post this time. A series of pics from the sights we had seen earlier on the Saturday but this time at night. The only problem with this is being bitten. If you do go and want to see it at (The day time ticket is still valid for re-entry btw), then bring the mozzy spray.
A year ago we bobbled up to Ayutthia for a couple days on our way up to Chang Mai. This used to be the capital of Thailand until it got sacked by those naughty Cambodians. Now, don't get me wrong, Ayutthai is great but Sukhothai is really amazing.
In Thai, Sukhothai means 'dawn of happiness' and the whole thing is a UNESCO world heritage site. . The ruins are spread across 70 sq KM and there are more than 190 separate ruins. This makes a bike an excellent way to see many of the ruins. All the hotels hire them out for about 50 baht (a quid) per day. The main site is the walled area that used to be the Royal palace.
Somewhat bizarrely, but obviously correctly, Wikipedia starts its introduction to the History of Sukhotahi as being before Ice Cream! I'm not making this up!. Historians now believe that this important trading town started its secession form the Khymer empire about 900 years ago. Traditional Thai historians considered the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom as the beginning of the Thai nation because little was known about the kingdoms prior to Sukhothai. Modern historical studies demonstrate that Thai history began before Sukhothai. Yet the foundation of Sukhothai is still a celebrated event.
There is a small admission charge but its valid all day so you can have a cycle round, nip off for a refreshing coffee und kuchin and then todal back, wander, go home for a swim, and come back again. System works well.
Whilst the ruins are spectacular... particularly at night when, if you go at the right time they are floodlight (see next post), it is the quality of the carving that I really liked. For example, please see exhibit 1, below:
Back way back when, I used to come to Melrose at least once a year with a party of school children, I've played rugby there (and won!), driven through and round it numerous times but never really looked at the Abbey apart from in passing.
High time to put that right. It is quite a significant monument in Scottish history. Several Kings are buried there, but it is probably most famous for being the burial site of Robert the Bruce's heart; the rest of him is buried in Dunfermline Abbey. The heart is thought to have been bought back from the Crusades to be buried there, which is more than a bit odd!
However, it was 6 (yes SIX!) pounds to go in to look around. Its some ruins in a field! How can they justify that much (see Stonehenge too)? They are ruins! By definition there's no up-keep. A bit of mowing perhaps to keep the grounds looking half decent but I can't see where the money goes. Needless to say I was too tight to pay. I thought it was just my usual meanness but the week after we went friends were moaning about the same thing. They had the same solution too. If you walk to the right of the Abbey there is a little path that allows you to see pretty much everything you could see from inside the fence but, maybe, from 10 metres further away.
One of the things about Northumberland, and Berwickshire on the other side of the border, are the number of castles. There's a good reason for this of course, in that both sides liked a day out to raid, fight and nick each other's cattle and women. Plus ca change!
One of my favourite ruins is Dunstanburgh castle; a short walk along from the sleepy fishing village of Craster. It dates from the 14th century (about 1313) and was built by the Earl of Lancaster. He was a rival to Edward II and it was probably meant as a safe refuge, if things went too badly wrong in the south. It was also, of course, a monument to his wealth and power. A wise move really, as he only visited it once before his capture after a battle and subsequent execution! It then passed into the hands of the crown (or at least the Royal family) for a couple of centuries at least.
Although some of the smaller stupas have a touch of the seen better days/jerry built about them, this is one of the more iconic sights/sites of Ayutthaya, with the three stupas all in a row and all still standing.
Built in the 15th century it was the temple complex for the adjacent Royal palace. It once was home to a 16m high seated Buddha. This statue was covered in 143kg of gold but, surprise surprise, it was nicked and melted down by the invading Burmese.
This was getting to be hot work so time for an iced coffee and a cheeky piece of cake!
Just over the road from Wat Ratchaburna is, what is probably the most photographed sights in Ayatthaya, Wat Maha That.
Again, it is demi-derelict, well, pretty much totally derelict, actually. I love the huge torso-less Buddha in the picture below.
There are numerous Stupas to wander around and, although this was one of the busier sites it was still not too over crowded despite being there on a bank holiday weekend.
Ayuttaya is an hour away by train from Bangkok and it only cost 80 baht for the 4 of us to get there (Less than 2 quid!). Not each! In total! It cost more to get to the skytrain from our house than from Bangkok to Ayuttaya.
Ayuttaya is the former capital of Siam and, in its pomp was one of the wealthiest cities on the planet. The kingdom that it was the hub of was larger than Britain and France combined. Then, it all went a bit Pete Tong. The Burmese invaded and much that was valuable was carted off to Rangoon or just destroyed. The island that was the centre of the old city is now a series of ruined Wats which make a fantastic day or two of wandering. Having arrived and enjoyed a spot of lunch, it was off to explore. The first surprise was that, for the time being, entrance was free to everything. RESULT! Could be something to do with the death of the King, but whatever the reason, you don't look a g h in the m.
This will be a blog about my latest shots and what I liked or was trying to do with them
I am a teacher of Economics and have worked in various schools in Europe & Asia. One of the things I love doing is getting out and about with my camera.